Balancing the Grind with Melony Kara Smirniotis, Visual Artist & Owner of Gallery 11:11

Melony Kara Smirniotis is a visual artist and the owner for Gallery 11:11, her purpose built studio and exhibition space.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

As soon as I completed High School, I worked in hairdressing and then moved into retail to sustain my arts practice which was always my first love. 

In between these jobs I was able to study while painting and exhibiting in my spare time and finished my BA in Fine Arts and Dip Ed in 1999. Then for the next 20 years it was marriage, kids and teaching full time and part time alongside hair and makeup jobs on weekends – mainly weddings and formals which had me traveling around New South Wales.

When my son was born, I made a promise to not wait until retirement to build the art space of my dreams which is now Gallery 11:11. I started building it in my head and it gained momentum quickly, then on the way to work one day while teaching I thought “when Andy starts kindergarten, that’s my time”.

I am extremely fortunate to have a very supportive partner who has watched me slowly work toward my dream for many years now. Gallery 11:11 opened September 2019 and I am incredibly proud of the community we have created and the amazing opportunities it offers emerging and established artists.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My alarm goes off at 6:55am each morning, but before I get stuck into the day, I’ll quietly sit and enjoy a coffee and enjoy the tranquility of my local area (Sydney’s leafy North Epping) while I check social media and emails. 

Then it’s time to get the kids off to their respective schools and bus stops and I’ll make a few phone calls on the way home. The next few hours is when I can seriously multitask whether it’s making phone calls and responding to emails on a local bushwalk or while hanging washing out.

If I haven’t gone for a walk, I’ll jump on the rower for half an hour to get my cardio fixed and sustain me for the day. During the early afternoon I find moments for creativity and painting and balance this with my husband’s timetable so we can sit and enjoy lunch together on the odd occasion.

Then it’s time for the school pickup and ferrying the kids around to their various extracurricular activities. Homework, dinner, then a couple of hours in the studio, before winding down and getting ready for what tomorrow has in store.

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I am very lucky to love what I do, so I don’t see it as laborious work. When I am out of the studio, I’ll admit that it is difficult to switch off and just be present. I’ll be eyeing compositions for paintings or thinking about a potential exhibition because being creative isn’t a 9-5, Monday to Friday job and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

4) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

It was always “family-first” for me so I designed a career that could be built around my growing family which means every day has to be “flexible”. Now that my kids are older and more independent, we work around each other and they are very supportive of my professional and creative journey.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I make sure I write a “to-do” list every day (I’m definitely a list person) and I purchased an A5 size diary during lockdown which I now can’t live without. In 2020, during the first lockdown, I started sharing photos of what inspires me to paint based on my local surroundings on the Facebook community page, hoping to brighten people’s days.  I then ended up turning it into a calendar, and will do it again this year. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m a hoarder when it comes to books, I collect them but never get around to reading all of them! Some of my recent purchases include Dave Grohl’s recent bio The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music, The People Smuggler: The True Story Of Ali Al Jenabi and I have always loved The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The other day I picked up a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

For podcasts, it’s Jordan Peterson and anything on the Mamamia Podcast Network. Founder Mia Freedman is a really great example of a successful lady that I respect and she’s around the same age. I also listen to Art Wank – I like a bit of humour when it comes to the creative industry. I enjoy listening to people that make me think outside the square.

When it comes to newsletters, my colleague at Gallery 11:11 Kristine Ballard is a great example of someone who is passionate about content, sharing, communicating effectively and her newsletters are sensational. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Instagram is still my go-to and I post and engage with our community every day. 

I was recently introduced to Nextdoor which is a community-based hub, and I love Smartist – which is a great app for artists to place their work in-situ.

For products – I would forego food for any art products and at the moment I really love all Gamblin artist grade oil colours, especially for my flannel flowers.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

I heard a recent interview with British fashion commentator Trinny Woodall on Mamamia, which I really enjoyed. Honesty combined with balancing family and so many layers in between, I would love to pick her brains on how she does it.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Be kinder to yourself and just breathe. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.